Sunday, April 3, 2011

Codex Kalachnikova Preview: The Funeral

Liselle's suicide had rattled the house to the very core. They stopped first to bury the dead, as soon as the graves were dug. No words were said yet, not in the house of the Scum Lord. The Codex Kalachnikova, the iron clad code of the holdfast, emphasized practical matters above all things. While mourning was necessary, unburied corpses were dangerous, vectors of many diseases. So it was only after the bastards had finished shoveling dark earth into the two holes they had dug that Valis had to speak. She watched the burial in silence instead, her eyes raw and red from crying.

The eternal clouds, the color of a dirty dishrag, hung low and turbulent above their heads, four consorts and twenty one bastards all gathered on a hilltop already dotted with half a hundred graves. The smell of unripe spring apples was heavy in the air. As was dictated in the Codex, each body had been buried with an apple in each hand. The graves were in neat orchard lines, and while not all had apple trees rising from them, many did. The first words of the Codex were "Above all else, survive" and they did, each tragedy strengthening them against those tragedies yet to come. They were strengthened with food and wood and leaves for mulching. Naught went to waste in the holdfast of the Scum Lord; the Codex would not allow it. In the house of my father, thought Valis, they waste good land for their graveyards, good stone for their markers and mausoleums, even good men to tend the flowers. I am blessed to be here, and belong to him. Return soon, my lord.
The bastards were patting down the grave dirt now, and a sudden terror welled up in Valis' heart. I have no idea what I will say. There were no funeral rites, no crutches of tradition to stand on-not in this house, not in these times. She could not speak of Mikhail's valor in the trial; he had never faced it, and in truth should have died in the wastelands unburied, as did all those who failed the Test of the Stomach. And she could not speak of the love and sisterhood between her and Liselle, for to do so would surely break her heart all over again. I cannot break down. Milord is not hear to buffer then against this terrible ill wind; I must be their strength in his absence. But that left her with nothing to say, and it was with a terrible numb blankess that she stepped to the front of the crowd.

Twenty four pairs of eyes went to her. She struggled to find her voice again, and failed for a moment. At that moment all she wanted was to flee back to her bedchamber and sob, but the expectant gaze of the holdfast pinned her there. With a deep, steadying breath, she lifted her chin-and found herself speaking, almost before she knew.

"Against the darkness, we remain. We bury our hearts with your brother and...and with my Dear One." There came the moment of greatest danger, as an errant sob jarred hard against the back of her throat, and she had to clamp down violently on it. "TEOTWAWKI came with all the thunder and horror that the prophets predicted, and yet the house of the Scum Lord remained. Since then we have buried many and more." She reached down, then touched the grave earth with one hand, reassured by the touch of something solid, something real. "Yet we remain. As was promised to our people so long ago, so long as we are cunning and full of tricks, our people will always remain-and remember." She had more, but she found herself unable to continue without sobbing and elected silence instead. With an involuntary, graceless jerk she rose and wiped her tear damp face. It left a streak of mud beneath her eye, which she ignored. Her head hung as she turned from the graves, and in perfect silence and reverence the bastards & consorts followed her, down the hill, past the corral, and to the white walls of the holdfast, a train of memories carried with them all the way from the Age of Chaos.

No comments:

Post a Comment